The largest U.S. mall owner is keeping one of its regional malls in the Dallas area closed weeks after a mass shooting at the site, a move that’s affecting about 120 retailers and thousands of jobs.
Simon Property Group said Allen Premium Outlets will remain closed until further notice after eight people were killed and seven were hospitalized when an armed gunman pulled up in a car and started shooting at pedestrians and shoppers in the outlet mall’s parking lot on May 6. The gunman was later killed by a police officer.
The 548,000-square-foot outlet mall in Allen, Texas, is one of the busiest shopping centers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and was 100% leased at the time of the shooting. According to Allen Premium Outlets’ website, the mall is closed through at least Memorial Day, with no information on when it might reopen.
“As we move forward, the needs of our retailers and our community will guide when and how we reopen the center,” Simon Property said on the website.
Simon Property’s latest annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in February noted the negative effects mass shootings and other public safety risks could have on its business, including decreased sales, revenue and overall asset value.
The mall owner said in the report it doesn’t have insurance for everything that could befall its retail properties, but it has insurance coverage for commercial general liability, flood, fire and acts of terrorism. It wasn’t immediately clear if the mass shooting would be considered an act of terrorism.
Simon Property did not respond to questions from CoStar News about its insurance and rent collection policies at the outlet mall as they apply to the shooting.
The shooting marks the second time Indianapolis-based Simon Property, with more than 200 U.S. properties, has shut one of its retail centers because it was the place of a mass shooting. Last year, a shooter killed three people in Greenwood Park Mall in Indiana. At the time, the mall was closed for two days, with some stores shut for longer, according to multiple media reports.
Like other places where mass shootings have occurred, there’s a long recovery ahead for the Texas outlet mall, said Neil Saunders, managing director and retail analyst for analytics firm GlobalData.
“They will likely remain closed for a respectful period of time and will reopen at some point of time because life does go on and you can’t close a destination permanently every time there is a shooting,” Saunders told CoStar News. “It’s not feasible and not necessary to do it.”
In other retail centers where mass shootings have occurred, Saunders said, the property owners tend to close properties for a period of mourning. In the case of the mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, that killed 10 people, he said there was a period of mourning followed by a respectful reopening in which there was a moment of silence to those who lost their lives.
“It was a very respectful thing and the store was a very important part of the community,” Saunders added. “People have jobs there, they shop there, they meet there. Life has to go on for the people who remain, which is very much the case for Allen Premium Outlets. But no one wants to be seen as being callous. It has to be done in a very respectful way.”
Saunders said it is likely too soon to share details of reopening the outlet mall in Allen. Executives at Simon probably know how long they plan on keeping the outlet mall closed, but don’t want to discuss a reopening out of respect for the victims, the families and friends of those that died and the community that is dealing with the tragedy, Saunders said.
“It’s a balancing act, you can’t satisfy everyone, but you do want to be respectful,” he said, adding this could be an occurrence other retail landlords might have to grapple with in the future with a seemingly rising wave of crime plaguing retail centers, leaving landlords to wonder: How can they keep shoppers safe?
With outdoor malls not likely to introduce metal detectors and security checks — one deterrent used by schools and airports — they must look elsewhere to security guard training or potentially having a police presence on property because “no one wants to see security guards armed to the teeth,” Saunders said. Landlords that want to keep shoppers at retail centers longer must provide an environment that is a perceived safe place to spend their time.
Meanwhile, the Allen outlet mall will probably be stigmatized for the immediate future, Saunders said.
“Unfortunately, that property and name has been associated with a traumatic incident,” he said. “It doesn’t go back to normal. For quite some time to come that shopping destination will be associated with the tragic deaths of these victims and there’s nothing you can do to remove that stain. Time will remove it, but it will be some years before some of those memories fade,” Saunders said.